Welcome to Film Reviews. In this series I will look to review any new films that come out in the Star Wars galaxy. I am no expert in films or film critic, so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. I will generally look to do 2 reviews: one with and one without spoilers. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into other films and canon media.
Today I will be taking a look at Solo: A Star Wars Story. This review will contain spoilers, so if you have not yet seen the movie, I would recommend reading my non-spoiler review instead. Apologies for the delay writing this, my intention was to write this after I had seen the film again to see if my opinion changed at all,but unfortunately my plans to go again have ran into some delays and I felt that I couldn’t wait any longer.
One of the early anthology films announced, the film was initially to be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, however they left the project late in principle photography due to creative differences and were replaced by Ron Howard.
The film gives the backstory to Han Solo and shows how he became the scoundrel we know from the Original Trilogy, as well as seeing his initial meetings with Chewbacca, Lando and a certain fan-favourite ship. Han joins up with a group of rogues in an attempt to get the credits required to go back to Corellia to find the girl he loves. The majority of the film is set approximately 10 years before A New Hope with the opening section of the film approximately 3 years earlier.
I’m just going to get this one straight out the way: the movie looked stunning! As with all the new films, the balance between CGI and models/costumes is wonderful and helps he film look so good. In one of the first shots of the movie, the camera pans up and we see the construction of a Star Destroyer above Corellia and it looks amazing! The sequences in the Maelstrom around Kessel looked great and every single planet we found ourselves on felt unique.
Unlike Rogue One, we did get some form of written introduction to the story, but not int he form of a crawl. While I initially felt this was odd, on reflection I like this especially as it is giving backstory to the idea of the Underworld and the importance of Hyperfuel, which is crucial to the whole story.
Ahead of the film, I had heard talk that this was one of the best Star Wars scripts… It definitely wasn’t. No offence to the Kasdans, but I feel that the script was disappointingly weak. L3-37’s rights for droids was pushed down our throats too much – I was far too happy when she was destroyed, though it did lead to a wonderful character moment for Lando – and while I have no problem with Val and Rio (who I really enjoyed) being killed off so early in the movie, but I feel that the script had Beckett get over their loss far too quickly – other than that I was really impressed with Woody Harrelson in this role. Qi’ra felt like she could do with more character development and I felt that while Emilia Clarke did well in the role, she suffered due to the script similar to Terminator Genisys. Sticking with the characters and I was worried that Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover would struggle to make me believe they were the same characters I have come to know and love from the Original Trilogy. Luckily the setting 10 years before A New Hope means that the characters do not have to match up exactly, but I was thoroughly impressed by both actors’ performances and completely bought them as a young Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams. We get the idea from this movie that Han is someone who wants to do the right thing, but often tries to hide his good heart behind bluster and the facade of an “outlaw” as he calls himself in this film. There was a moment towards the end of the film where Ehrenreich makes a gesture as he says goodbye to Enfys Nest that to me was pure Harrison Ford’s Solo. Arguably the best moments with Han generally included his back and forth with Chewbacca, who was played wonderfully by Joonas Suotamo. The former basketball player has been slowly taking over from Peter Mayhew throughout the sequel trilogy and you can see he has taken everything on board to the point that Chewie feels no different despite the new actor. Glover as well felt like the smooth operator we met in The Empire Strikes Back and I love the attention to detail to make sure he pronounced Han’s name the same as Williams. Such a little thing, but so important for believing this is the same character. Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany was a wonderful villain and the character felt completely natural, it was just a shame that the script meant that he only appeared in a handful of scenes. I cannot be so complimentary about Enfys Nest however, the performance from Erin Kellyman was good, however the way the character goes from being a clear antagonist in the first act to siding with Han and Beckett’s crew with little argument at the end felt far too quick, there was nothing to suggest she and her crew were trustworthy and yet Han involved them heavily in his plan for the final act.
Going into the story a bit more and I love how the Empire was not the main villain of the film. Though the were involved in the plot, it felt like a natural occupation & law enforcement presence in a movie focusing on the criminal underworld. Though I wish Lady Proxima had been a character that was subtitled rather then speaking Basic, I enjoyed the Correllia prologue with one exception: the origin of Han’s name. The moment Han said he didn’t have a surname I groaned internally as suddenly it was clear that he was going to be given the surname Solo and I don’t feel this was needed, Han Solo could have worked just as well as his actual name. I may not have been a fan of L3, but I did like the way that she inadvertently caused the riot on Kessel and I thought that was so well-shot. I enjoyed the new look to the Millennium Falcon and the way that the sequence in the Maelstrom and the Maw leads to the Falcon becoming the ship we know, while the turret and sensor dish were both lost from the ship, giving reason for Han’s modifications in time for A New Hope. While the reveal of Beckett betraying Han may have been a little telegraphed, I like the way that this was second-guessed by Han so that the plan actually worked taking that into account, while we also see Han willing to shoot first to kill Beckett (thank God they left the shooting first comment unspoken!). I could have done without the mentions of doing a job for a big-time gangster on Tatooine. While it is nice to get a reference to Jabba, it may lead the casual fan to think that this is actually closer in time to the Original Trilogy than it is intended to be. I also really like how Qi’ra’s actions in the final act seem based on her feelings from Han, killing Vos as he is the only one who knows of Han’s involvement, while reporting to her superior that it is the now-dead Beckett who caused everything, keeping Han safe.
And now, we come to the big reveal: the real leader of Crimson Dawn is none other than Maul! I loved The Clone Wars and Rebels and recognised Sam Witwer’s voice immediately. I also picked up on the robotic legs showing in the hologram but I will happily admit that even picking up on both these things, the thought that it could be Maul never even crossed my mind. When it was revealed, I was shocked and thrilled in equal measure, as I never expected Lucasfilm to put something in a film that would require an extensive knowledge of the animated TV shows. With rumours swirling of a Boba Fett movie, I feel that Maul’s appearance as leader of Crimson Dawn would fit perfectly for that in some form, whilst also being a way to include some of the characters from this film again in the future as part of a series of films focusing on the criminal underworld. I imagine many Star Wars fans who only watch the films will have been shocked by this reveal and I hope that some of then will go back and watch The Clone Wars now to get more of his story. I feel that it was a bit odd to see him ignite his lightsaber, but I feel that was done specifically for fans who would not have known he was still alive. And to confirm it was indeed Maul, I loved the inclusion of the “Duel of the Fates” music, it was subtle by not going for the more recognisable section of the music, but still did a great job of referring back to Maul’s most iconic moment.
While there were some great moments in the music, I must admit that I have been disappointed by John Powell’s score so far. While I loved a number of throwbacks to the Original Trilogy with the inclusion of the “Rebel Fanfare”, “Death Star Motif”, “The Asteroid Field” and “TIE Fighter Attack” along with the “Duel of the Fates”, there was nothing else that has immediately caught my attention and stuck in my memory like the music from the trailers did. That said, it took a while for Michael Giacchino’s score for Rogue One to grow on me, so I hope that something similar will happen here.
I recently put together my ranking of the 10 previous movies in canon. After one viewing of Solo, I would currently put this film at number 5 on my list, though it was very close to making it to number 4 as I agree with the suggestion that while The Last Jedi is a better movie, Solo feels more like a Star Wars movie. It would not surprise me though if Solo overtakes The Last Jedi in time following more viewings. Considering this was a film that I never really wanted – I was happy with Han’s backstory remaining untold or being shown in a novel/comic – and taking into account all the issues during production, I honestly feel that this was a wonderful result and would love to see these actors involved in more Star Wars adventures and also have Ron Howard direct a film from start to finish, though I’m not sure I would be able to deal with all of his teases on twitter again!
Moments in Canon
- Lando comments that Beckett killed Aurra Sing, while Val suggests including Bossk on the train job, both characters have appeared in earlier movies (Aurra Sing cameos watching the podrace in The Phantom Menace while Bossk is one of the bounty hunters brought in by the Empire to find the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back) and both had their roles in canon expanded during The Clone Wars, with Bossk also appearing in Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple
- Beckett’s disguise on Kessel is the same one used by Lando to infiltrate Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi
- The lightsaber Maul ignites is the same one he has during the Rebels TV series and appears to be similar to those used by the Inquisitors. We do not yet know the story of all the Inquisitors so it is likely one fell foul of Maul, who took their weapon afterwards
- Enfys Nest’s crew, the Cloud-Riders had a couple of familiar faces. Warwick Davies makes his customary cameo as Weazel, who he also plays during the podrace in The Phantom Menace. We also see a Tognath in the crew, possibly Edrio/Benthik Two-Tubes, who went on to join Saw Gerrera’s Partisans in Rogue One
- A Decraniated appears working for Dryden Vos. The Decraniated were created by Dr Evazan, who appeared with Ponda Baba in Rogue One and A New Hope. A Decraniated also appears in Rogue One during the ambush at the market on Jedha.
- The Imperial Anthem “Glory of the Empire” plays on the advert Han sees to join the Empire. This is a modified version of John Williams’ “Imperial March” and also features during the Empire Day celebrations in Rebels
What were your thoughts on Solo: A Star Wars Story? Where would you rank it on a list of your favourite Star Wars films? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…